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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Celestial Weasel's LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
    9:24 pm
    "Let them know that Canada still cares"
    "Joni Mitchell later spoke to writer Iain Blair about the recording experience: "I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was literally starving when we did the session 'cause my yoga teacher had sent me to a psychic dietician who, while rubbing her chin and swinging her arm around in a circle, had diagnosed a lot of food allergies. The result was, predictably, that I was hardly allowed to eat anything, so by the time I arrived with an apple and a rice patty, my poor stomach was making all these strange noises. Then we get in the studio, and the engineer says he can't record 'cause he's picking up some weird rumbling sound coming from my direction. (She laughed.) And it was all pretty ironic, considering the subject matter!"

    With the return of Band Aid here is the Canadian 1985 song which unaccountably makes me tear up a bit.

    I have mentioned this before, and at the time I expect I mentioned this. Not a parody of anything at all, I'm sure.

    The film doesn't quite work IMO though normally it is the sort of thing crass enough for me to like.
    Sunday, November 16th, 2014
    10:37 pm
    Poetry corner
    Ode to the dead mouse found mysteriously squashed in the side of the loft hatch.

    "How the fuck did you get there?"
    Thursday, November 6th, 2014
    10:55 pm
    Half gave blood yesterday - was half way through the donation when the person who had set things up said sorry the bag is defective so it won't be sterile so we may as well give up. The last time I went (between Christmas and New Year last year) they decided to have a go with my left arm as that was the way the bed was set up, the bruising meant that no blood came out. Oh well. Also I think I once went along at some point this year because the blood service phoned up and said 'can you come?', so I did and it was full because they had rung lots of people up. This time I went to the one in town in the ex-cinema, a strange building which I am slightly surprised survives. It is in a slightly weird position in a car park with the front just a metre or two from the back of the building in front of it. A better location than the village hall though, so I think I will stick with it.
    For the sake of completeness I should mention that I finished watching A Dance To The Music Of Time on 4OD. My main abiding memory from watching it when it was on was that in cantering through 12 books in 4 2 hour episodes (40 mins including ads per book) it got a bit risible with the characters spending much of it reminding each other who they were and who they had been married to 4 books i.e. 160 minutes ago. Actually there wasn't much of this and only really in the last episode. It is really made by Simon Russell Beale as Kenneth Widmerpool.
    Thursday, October 30th, 2014
    10:47 pm
    Weasel Trip
    1. Didcot to Reading
    2. Reading to Southampton Central
    3. Southampton Central to Fareham
    4. Fareham to Gosport Ferry (Eclipse BRT )
    5. Gosport Ferry to Portsmouth Harbour
    6. Cat in a meringue to Ryde Pier Head
    7. Island line to Smallbrook Junction
    8. Steam train to Wootton
    9. ... and back to Smallbrook Junction
    10 Island Line to Sandown
    11 Island Line back to Ryde Esplanade
    12 Hovercraft! (Hovercraft! Hovercraft!) to Southsea
    13 'HoverBus' to Portsmouth Harbour Station (not really a HoverBus - they also have a HoverParcels services, which is not as exciting as it sounds, either)
    14 Portsmouth Harbour to Southampton Central
    15 Southampton Central to Reading
    16 Reading to Didcot

    Field notes
    A. Didcot Parkway station has a sign saying 'Didcot Parkway Interchange' with some Quangotastic logos, including a 'buses' one with 3 'electron going round nucleus' loops and the word 'buses' which I suspect is related to Science Vale Irksome Delusional Quango Wank - since as I recall the grand vision for transport for Science Vale is 'another bus' (also 'some sort of integrated transport card, yes I'm sure First Great Western and or Chiltern Rail will go along with that yearright) this logo probably symbolises that 'the bus' will go to Didcot.
    Also, the bridge between the main road and the station car-park is shut and the diversion signs would be utterly unhelpful if you didn't know where to go. Also the card machines in the car-park were out of order again, prompting much swearing from other people, but not from me as I tend to assume they will be out of order and therefore that I need £6.20 in cash.
    B. Blimey, hasn't Reading Station grown? The old buildings form a tiny part of the new station. There was also a rather bizarre ad for Cardiff 'come to the capital city closest to London'. 'Home of Doctor Who' is one of the things that gets a name check on it.
    C. Southampton Central station is a bit of a shit-hole.
    D. Some quite wacky backs of terraced houses on the route out of Southampton. Southampton is a place that by virtue of having relatives to visit there I have not really explored that not flattened by air-raids / town planning.
    E. Southampton Airport (Parkway) station appears to be called 'Southampton Airport (Parkway)' with brackets. It, along with Southampton station also has signs saying 'the home of Southampton University'. Well, which University would you expect it to be home to?
    F. On the train from Reading to Southampton Central, two old ladies behind me were having a stunningly tedious conversation, really world class, but as we approached Winchester where they were getting off, it veered into one describing how one of her friends had leapt into bed with her man-friend she met at U3A when he came round at 10:30 in the morning, then her son came round and let himself in with his key and she came down in her dressing gown and said 'oh Reg [or whatever] stayed the night as we'd had a drink' because she thought it was better than saying 'Reg came round this morning and we went to bed'.
    G. The 'rapid bus transit' is definitely rapid in a very, er, interesting use of the term. It goes along the old railway line, converted into a road for use only by the buses, and with barriers that they shut at night, presumably due to paranoia about joy-riders, but not a guided busway like Luton / Cambridge, but then it crawls through Gosport - I don't even think it has a magic 'change the lights at junctions' system. This means, of course, the quickest way out of Gosport centre by public transport is probably ferry to Portsmouth.
    H. The Island Line trains are, indeed, old Underground trains (surface stock - I think I remember things very like them on the District Line in my youth). They go along the pier in Ryde and there is indeed a tunnel in Ryde. It is a bit freaky. But what WERE they thinking closing the line from Shanklin to Ventnor?
    I. Ah, a hovercraft. It is almost like The Jetsons came true rather than the grim cyberpunk dystopia.
    J. Actually, the catamaran is almost as quick and a lot smoother.
    K. Gosport looks quite run-down. What I saw of Portsmouth didn't. I do think there is a tendency (perhaps unsurprising) for the gap between the run-down and the up-and-coming to grow - see also Reading vs Coventry.
    L. The reason for turning round at Sandown was that I thought that I would exhaust the novelty of travelling on an old tube train through bucolic countryside, so I would have 20 minutes in Sandown rather than 8 in Shanklin. Sandown is where we often went on holiday in my childhood, until my cousin's husband inherited a house near the Fishbourne ferry terminal. The station is actually too far inland for me to have got to the front and back in 20 minutes. The bit I saw, i.e. inland, looked a bit down at heel in the manner of British seaside resorts. The same is kind of true of Ryde - some quite impressive buildings turned into bedsits. A very odd large house with lots of Doric columns and expensive cars in the drive at the edge of Ryde town centre sandwiched between a car-park one one side and rather less impressive buildings to the other side and opposite.
    Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    11:20 pm
    A million
    Saw this house in the window of an estate agent last Friday. Can't remember why I was looking, not because I wanted to buy a house. Probably finishing a sandwich before going into a shop or something like that. in Preston Crowmarsh, famed mainly for being the birthplace of John Brunner. Not so much a village as a crescent forking off from the main Oxford - Reading road with some big houses on it, vaguely near Benson - a village with a few shops including a co-op, a rather irritating pharmacy and a horribly overpriced greengrocer with fruit and veg not a patch on that you get at the Friday market. Also blessed with being a long way from a decent trunk road / motorway and not particularly convenient for Didcot Parkway (fast trains) or Cholsey (slow trains). Yours for a cool million.

    But what of Oxford?
    Well, you can have a 5 bedroom terrace on Banbury Road
    An ugly and unremarkable 4 bedroom detached in Old Marston (SRSLY?)
    A 3 bedroom end terrace in one of the side roads between Banbury and Woodstock roads off the main drag of Summertown shops (yes, 3 bedroom end terrace)

    Don't know how durable Zoopla links are, house being on the market at that price doesn't mean anyone will pay it, obviously.

    Now, as someone said if you had a 2 million pound house but were cash poor, I would flog it and buy a million pound house and have a million pound house and be cash rich.

    But does any of this make any sense any more, at all, on any level?
    Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
    11:41 pm
    Didn't get any replies to this question on Twitter so will try a different echoing void. Will I like Lavie Tidhar's 'The Violent Century'? Or, indeed, the new one if anyone has read e.g. a review copy? I liked Osama a great deal, didn't particularly like the steampunk. It was well written, he is a good prose stylist, but it was a bit too much 'lists of other people's characters and/or famous people in different contexts' which as you know leaves me cold.
    11:38 pm
    Looking at old friends locked LJ posts
    Inspired by finding an LJ email by searching for 'magic lantern' in my email box. How young and witty we were. And, in one case, how 'still alive' :-(
    Thursday, October 16th, 2014
    9:51 pm
    Too obscure for Wikipedia, until now
    A few weeks ago I was discussing on Twitter with one of my imaginary friends the BBC radio childrens' programme 4th Dimension - in the context of BBC 4 Extra cutting back on childrens' programmes. I mentioned that I remembered 4th Dimension having a serial by Anthony Buckeridge with a girl protagonist. My imaginary friend said he had spotted the serial in the list whilst looking at old Radio Times's in the British Library but hadn't noticed it was by Buckeridge.
    Some Googling came up with this

    "Liz ("4th. Dimension" series) Anthony Buckeridge 6 R4 4.5.1974 8.6.1974 Helen Worth/Jill Lidstone/Diana Bishop/Anthony Buckeridge " on a site listing lost radio plays - ironically it only came high up the sort order because I search for 'Anthony Buckeridge Fourth Dimension Angela' misremembering the name of the eponymous protagonist.

    Anyway, now the BBC have put the Radio Times archive on line you can find the details here:
    4.30 Liz
    A comedy serial play in six parts by ANTHONY BUCKERIDGE
    Play produced and programme edited byGRAHAM GAULD

    Notice also:
    4.5 In My Opinion
    ANN MOORE , ROLF HARRIS and TONY SOPER give their views on questions put by children of Witton Middle School, Droitwich, Malvernshire.
    Producer ANTHONY SMITH

    Ooh er, Rolf Harris.

    Having put a name to the serial and finding that it is lost, is somehow rather sad. Though of course this was 1974 so maybe someone has a cassette somewhere. Not that I particularly want to listen to it again. It is more the nostalgia, small boys, Puffin Posts for goalposts, isn't it. Eh?

    Anyway, Anthony Buckeridge's Wikipedia page didn't mention Liz. Until now. Fourth Dimension theme - was it really this slow?
    Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
    11:17 pm
    Bizarre internet shit-storms near you
    There was an article in The New Yorker about Stafford Beer and Cybersyn by Evgeny Morozov.
    There appears to be an internet shit-storm about this being at worst plagiarised and at best inadequately paying debt to Eden Medina's book on Beer and Cybersyn
    The article is here
    Eden Medina's book details here
    I became aware of the shit-storm via a locked Twitter account, but the person being retweeted was going OMG PLAGIARISM!!11!! based on the illustration in the New Yorker article resembling the cover of Eden Medina's book - I suggested that them both having the picture of the Cybersyn control room being a sign of plagiarism was akin to someone going OMG PLAGIARISM!!11!! based on two things about Paris both being illustrated with the Eiffel Tower.

    Personally, I thought the article in the New Yorker fell well within accepted 'if you draw on more than 2 works it's research not plagiarism' bounds. I have, to be honest, only skimmed it, though.

    I think it is telling that the article about Morozov mentions a possible debt in connection to the correspondence between Beer and Brian Eno to the book by Andrew Pickering (who has 2 Ph.Ds) and not to the earlier book by David Whittaker (who doesn't).

    I feel there is some sort of subtext here I am not getting.

    The surprising thing about this is that anyone cares, I would have imagined that I am one of the 20 people in the world who care most about about this stuff, and I don't care very much.

    Eden Medina's book is very good, though. Firstly, because she can write well. Secondly, because she has actually, gasp, gone to Chile and talked to people in Spanish. Things in technology that happen outside the Anglophone world often sink without trace unreported.
    Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
    11:40 pm
    1. As I may have said before, there has been a fine crop of yellow diversion signs this year, such that about every road junction in Oxfordshire has one. I think it is some sort of absurdist stunt. Some of them have been particularly bizarre e.g. the one pointing left from the Peartree junction of the A34 towards Woodstock saying 'non-motorway traffic'. Yet, ironically, the two times I have been affected by a diversion there have been no diversion signs.
    There was an outbreak of red 'no road markings' signs in places where there were, in fact, road markings. I imagine that the placement of no road marking signs is contracted to Red No Road Markings Signs PLC and they are ordered for a particular duration in advance with no reference to the actual painting of road markings, and with an extra charge for changing the dates. This does seem to have passed though, unlike the diversion signs which are very much in evidence. I imagine there will be more as apparently there has been some sort of landslide in Bagley Wood Road - I blame badgers. Also the subsidence in Dunmore Road, Abingdon seems to me to be getting more noticeable.

    2. I am pleased to say that England Athletics accepted my form with me, in my role as a committee member, certifying myself as a member of the club. Quite why they need this when they also take ones EA number and they can look this up in their database, I don't know.

    3. Went to see Douglas Coupland twice - once with pmcray (whom God preserve, of Utrecht) at the London Review of Books bookshop where he was talking to Alain De Botton - sadly not Frank Side-De-Botton - about this which I bought and got Douggie to sign though haven't read yet.
    On Saturday I went with t__m__i to see him at the Whitechapel Gallery where he was talking about - he had a projector and was zipping between pages to point things out. This was as part of a festival (or something) of art books. (We then went out for a Vietnamese meal with Mr. vicarage).
    We have seen Douggie 3 times before this, I think - twice at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and once in Stratford (Avon, not East London or Ontario) doing a sort of one man play.
    He seemed happier and more relaxed at the thing in Whitechapel than I have ever seen him before, he is obviously much happier in 'art' mode than 'author' mode, he even made some sort of reference to the sort of people who go to literary things.
    Cannot remember any particular bon mots though.
    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014
    10:59 pm
    Today's weasel poems from Twitter
    They fuck you up the Tory gang
    They always mean to and they do
    So make one Instagram their wang
    And mock them when they try to sue

    My name is Dan Hodges, I've planned
    A newspaper column that's bland
    In which I will say
    That poetry day
    Is bad news for Ed Miliband

    (inspiration from juggzy)
    Wednesday, October 1st, 2014
    11:25 pm
    Pattern Recogntion
    Via Ansible - it appears that a Pattern Recognition film is back on the agenda

    Would have to be done as a historical film, really, surely?
    10:17 pm
    The religion question offered "Agnostic / No religion" as one option and "Atheist" as another.
    10:08 pm
    The England Athletics booking form for courses has a diversity section on the back. The question on sexual orientation gives the options
    Lesbian / Gay Woman
    Gay Man
    Other - please specify

    In all seriousness what would you expect someone not from the Tumblr fringe to put in 'other'? The only plausible thing I can think of is 'Asexual'.

    NB Gender / transgender / marital status are dealt with in other questions.
    Sunday, September 28th, 2014
    9:47 pm
    Smartphones And Beyond - David Wood
    A history of Symbian - the rise and fall, one might say - by one of the senior executives of the company.

    Much as I like failology anyway, this has particular interest to me because
    a) I owned various Psion / Symbian devices - including the GeoFox One (one of the things on the internets suggested that sold about 1000 of them, this is about 997 more than I assumed they had sold, I always kind of assumed I was one of about 3 people who had bought one). I donated the GeoFox to the museum of computing at Bletchley Park along with my Olivetti P6040 (
    b) one of my friends, S, was very interested at PDAs at the time so we would discuss then quite a lot. For reasons that escape me for the moment, after he and I both moved on from where we worked together he ended up going to various product briefings, talked to senior people in the industry etc.
    c) As I may have said before, my immediate predecessor in my previous job - we are going back about 20 years now - left to work at Psion, then Symbian, and had a fairly senior technical role. He is mentioned in the book a few times. Amusingly, his CV on LinkedIn has my previous employer airbrushed from his CV. I guess cobbling together a not terribly inspired Mac / Windows desktop tool to support a consultancy's in house consulting method doesn't fit in with the grand narrative trajectory of his career.
    d) Also, as I have probably said to many of you many times, I stand before you as someone who bought some Psion shares at about 4 pounds a share, watched them gradually drop to about £2.50, then sold them a few weeks before the Symbian venture was anounced and the shares shot up in value!
    On the third of these points, now "to be fair" (TM) clearly people change and grow through their careers, he was saddled with using a bizarre framework he didn't choose (so was I until we gave up and rewrite the software in MFC) and aptitude at cobbling together yada yada yada does not necessarily correlate to aptitude at designing mobile computing / phone frameworks. However, the software I inherited was not software one would necessarily want the developer of making major architectural decisions about a major platform. [Oooh, get her]

    The book grew on me as I read through it. Wood is no great prose stylist and I did think that the prose style might on some level be due to his hanging out too much with Scandinavians.

    It is hard to say exactly what lessons I felt could be drawn from the saga. It did strike me though there is a particularly British odour about the failure, some resonances with things I have experienced and/or witnessed over the years. I think on the whole though the overwhelming issue was Weasel's Law Of Failology: 'if you do X and someone else does Y and it turns out the market wants Y you are pretty much screwed because your attempt to make your thing do Y is going to be riven by technological and political issues and people who will spend ages swearing that More-or-less-X is Y really etc. etc.' (yes, I know the formulation isn't terribly snappy).

    One thing which wasn't obvious to me at the time but should have been is that the reason the industrial bit of Psion switched to using Windows CE is that when they wanted help from Symbian the response was essentially 'well, that's very nice, but [list of companies] are going to ship millions of phones so they're more important, go away'. I have seen this sort of thing myself in my sordid, degraded career.

    An interesting thing I thought about the book is that, compared to many histories of computing of the last 20 years or so, there wasn't an enormous distance between what seemed to be going on and what the book indicates was going on. Partly I think this is because I was following it more closely, but partly I think because the British computing press is less prone to publish whatever lies they are told - from other books it is clear that various American magazines were quite capable of discussing things as though they were about to be released that had barely been started.

    Also, the very idea of having a large number of people in London working on an operating system. London, with all its expense etc. seems hard to comprehend. And there were a lot of people - this Register article talks about 3000 people transferring to Accenture (not all in London presumably). Whatever happened to them all?

    The final chapter is Wood's overview of other technologies that he thinks might change the world, including 'Transhumanism' and 'A manifesto for Humanity+'. I ignored that for obvious reasons :-)
    Friday, September 26th, 2014
    4:46 pm
    Fry-ing tonight!
    I am genuinely surprised that the Stephen Fry autobiography (vol 3) has a Kindle launch price of 3 quid vs hardback of 12.50 (Amazon) - 25 ('full price'). This (i.e. Kindle price on launch of approx 10% of 'full price' and approx 25% of Amazon price) isn't normal, is it? Or is it?
    Monday, September 22nd, 2014
    10:56 pm
    10 "The regions should be allowed to set their own priorities"
    20 "Oh noes, postcode lottery"
    30 GOTO 10

    Also, if we are having 'city regions' what do we do with the 'outside the city region regions'?

    Having said this, the 1974 2 tier system seems absurd to me, as was the current Tory government abolishing the regional Government Offices set up by the previous Tory government on the grounds of the gordonbrowngordonclownmorelikeist tendency's belief that regions are an evil plot of the lizards in Brussels. I think regions (the 1994 Major ones, why not?) and unitary authorities probably is the best solution. Can't see the South East Province Assembly in Guildford attracting the best and brightest of the age though, somehow.

    Big sigh.
    10:12 pm
    A bad tempered git writes...
    ... in this broad corner of the noosphere, and/or Guardianistas, 'people in England with no obvious connection to Scotland who were in favour of Scottish independence' seemed to correlate astonishingly well to 'idiot'

    (if this sounds like it applies to you, rest assured that you are lovely)
    Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
    8:50 pm
    Paging General Packet, I have a question about your radio service
    OK... my mobile phone is on the Vodafone network (pay as you go). I reckon that in the last few days when there is only a 2G signal (GPRS or EDGE) the data stuff essentially stops - my phone shows a letter for the connection type - G, E, 3, H. On the 3G ones (3 and H) it is fine, but I think in the 2G modes it is not doing any data transfer. Not just the normal 'barely usable' but 'stalled completely'. Is anyone else experiencing this?
    Saturday, September 13th, 2014
    11:08 pm
    A dance to the music of timesheets
    "A dance to the music of timesheets" has got to be a better title for a cycle of novels than "A dance to the music of timelords", I think.
    Clearly the Widmerpool de nos jours would have worked for McKinsey at some point. I imagine he would tweet about strategy.

    A Dance To The Music Of Time was written from 1951 to 1975, with the 1951 novel (A Question Of Upbringing) being set in 1921, written when Anthony Powell was 46 (or published, anyway), and the final novel (Hearing Secret Harmonies - a title we have previously discussed ) being set in 1971
    Therefore, if pmcray (whom God preserve, of Utrecht) were to start now, at roughly the same age as Powell, then the first volume of his roman-fleuve should be set 30 years ago, in 1984 - a year which of course it would share with, er, 1984 and The Napoleon Of Notting Hill.

    Linking the music of timesheets and the music of Time Lords, the novels could include the Dr Who fan meetings at The Fitzroy, perhaps.

    We watched the middle two episodes of the slightly bizarre Channel 4 version of ADTTMOT yesterday. It was rather better than I remember, maybe the 2nd and 3rd episodes were the good ones - the 3rd one did 'the war' i.e. books 7 to 9.

    A combination of this and reading a book about Psion / Symbian, which I shall doubtless return to, lead to some rather bizarre dreams last night. Sadly nothing linear enough to be usable as the plot of the novel, which is why the task falls to pmcray (WGP,OU)
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